Telecommunications was the original battleground of privacy. There were famous fights in Parliament and the courts in the 1970s and 1980s over obtaining telephone wiretaps to listen to conversations: the legacy of RCMP efforts to track sovereigntists (or “separatists” if you prefer) but less well-known were battles over who could see your calling records (what number you called, for how long, and where that number was located).
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) protected the privacy of consumers’ calling records, in part because consumer and public interest representatives appeared at their hearings and argued it was no one’s business whom you called (short of criminal charges) and no marketing or other company should see your call records. The phone companies were generally happy to protect their customers’ confidentiality as essential to their service. The CRTC said no one else could get these records without your written, explicit consent.
Come the 2000s, and marketing had gotten better. Computers had made data more useful and data communications, even before the Internet was widely used, allowed easy transfer of call records or any other data your activities generated. The Federal Government consulted on privacy and marketing and passed a law known as the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), quite simply to protect your data in the “networked computer” (and later Internet) age.
Unfortunately, this was not so easy. It turns out networked computer use generated far more “metadata” (like calling records, metadata is data about the transmission, not the content) than phone calls. Internet platforms such as Google and Facebook learned that the metadata had predictive qualities, meaning they could sell those predictions to advertisers.